Image courtesy of Significat Designs.

Image courtesy of Significat Designs.

By Von Clausewitz (a pseudonym for a military person that desires anonymity)

On operational command and civil-military relations:

‘I spend a great deal of time imprisoned in my office, captive to the demands of Canberra. As much as possible I shield the unit commanders in Afghanistan from the deadening touch of Defence bureaucrats and political wrangling, but not always successfully. I tear my hair out in frustration when I am second-guessed, undermined or contradicted by staff officers half a world away; sometimes I get actual help. I have a bit of a blue with my boss, a turf war; we patch it up and get on with it’.

From Exit Wounds by Major General (ret) John Cantwell (Australian Army)


On hope as a course of action

‘It was all very well hoping confidently and optimistically that the grand endeavour would be smiled upon by a benevolent deity, but the battle-hardened old-timers taught us that you shouldn’t mix hope and soldiering’.

From Kandak by Patrick Hennessey


On returning home

‘With my post deployment leave finished, I am back at work… Each day I shake off the previous night’s horrors and present myself for duty. The work is stimulating and I enjoy the comradeship of my fellow instructors, but the sheer normality of life seems wrong. Paperwork is processed and filed, supplies are stacked and counted, soldiers line up to be ticked off a roll before starting work for the day. Supervisors fuss and worry over small details, energy is expended on petty problems. Stern memos are circulated. The very blandness of such activity should be comforting to me, reassuring me that the life I have known goes on, that the compressed period of violence and fear I experienced was an aberration. But it is not. Instead, I feel like I am watching all this from afar, a detached observer. I struggle to stay engaged, to mask my impatience with issues that seem inconsequential, to appear normal’.

From Exit Wounds by Major General (ret) John Cantwell (Australian Army)


‘How difficult to convey to anyone that matters something which they will never understand, and how little anything else will ever matter’.

From The Junior Officers’ Reading Club, Patrick Hennessey


On law and war

‘The idea that there are rules in warfare and that combatants kill each other according to basic concepts of fairness probably ended for good with the machine gun. A man with a machine gun can conceivably hold off a whole battalion, at least for a while, which changes the whole equation of what it means to be brave in battle’.

From War by Sebastian Junger


Ours is not to reason why…

‘And didn’t Homer write in the Iliad that every man should experience war, because war, like love, is one of the central mysteries of life? Or was it Hemmingway? Hang on, didn’t Hemmingway say that in war “you’ll die like a dog for no good reason”’?

From War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres


On the multifaceted nature of modern warfare

‘We weren’t fighting one war, we were fighting hundreds across the country, and from valley to valley the politics and enemy were different. Before deploying to Afghanistan I read Pakistani journalists, Soviet tank commanders and British historians to understand the Afghans. But I learned most about insurgent operations from watching The Wire. Drug runners and suicide bombers aren’t so unlike. In Afghanistan, they were sometimes linked’.

From Anzac’s Long Shadow by James Brown